Business Insider reported that the nation will start permitting children aged 14-17 into the workforce. This is aimed at alleviating the ongoing labor shortage in the country, but analysts say the move seems to gear toward undercutting the adult working class.
Lawmakers in Iowa and Minnesota proposed exceptions to child labor regulations last month. The proposed bills in these states would allow children to work more hours and "protect employers from liabilities due to sickness or accidents," which could help specific industries like construction and meatpacking that are being hit hard in these states. According to recent data, Minnesota lost 90,000 workers alone during the pandemic, making it one of the tightest labor markets in the country. Iowa is not far behind with roughly 75,000 open jobs in December.
The "corporate-backed" politicians are seeking to solve the worker shortage by tapping children and not by offering more attractive pay or benefits. "This initiative would target children in shaky economic situations, e.g., the kind of kids who need to work a job and don't have parents who can afford to give them money. The ethical concerns here are enormous," columnist and political commentator Bradley Blankenship wrote in an RT article.
He also pointed out the safety concerns arising from the legislation. "Minnesota wants to see 16 and 17-year-olds allowed to work in construction, which can be a dangerous job. Iowa wants to see even younger children allowed to work in their meatpacking plants, which, at the height of the nation's coronavirus outbreak, saw high caseloads and deaths," he added.
But the main problem is that the proposals undermine adult workers' ability to organize for better pay. Blankenship stressed that expanding the workforce to include more teenagers, would kneecap those already in their positions and hinder their chances of getting the pay they deserve.
"The answer to the labor shortage is not to harken back to 19th-century child labor norms, but to give workers a fair wage, decent working conditions and basic dignity," the journalist pointed out. "It is a lack of these exact things that have, in part, driven the mass exodus of Americans from menial jobs in hopes of finding more lucrative opportunities. They deserve the right to do so, especially if the employers of blue-collar jobs are so unprincipled in utilizing child labor."
Child labor violations have been on the rise again. They are still much lower than it was two decades ago, but experts are still troubled as the impending bill may have something to with it.
According to data from the Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division, the total number of violations has been constantly increasing since 2015. The Wage and Hour Division found 1,012 minors employed violating child labor laws, with an average of 1.9 per case. In 2022, that number more than tripled to 3,876, averaging 4.6 per case.
"We're doing more outreach and education, which helps people recognize violations," said Jessica Looman, principal deputy administrator of the Wage and Hour Division. "We also are doing more investigations."
Looman noted that most violations occur in places where it's appropriate for minors to work – meaning teenagers are working too many hours at a grocery store or operating a fryer and staying too late at a fast-food chain.
In 2022, more than 100 kids across several McDonald's locations in Pennsylvania were illegally scheduled to work too many hours or too late at night. Subway, Burger King and Popeyes restaurants in South Carolina were fined for similar violations in 2022.
The company Packers Sanitation Services settled this month a $1.5 million fine for employing 102 children to work in dangerous meatpacking facility jobs across eight states. Also, Reuters revealed that children as young as 12, many of whom were migrants, were hired to work in a metal shop owned by Hyundai. (Related: Child labor in America: Dozens of teenagers are employed as slaughterhouse cleaners in Nebraska, Minnesota.)
However, as the labor market is tightening again, employers tend to prefer to fill jobs with minors, who tend to be cheaper and more docile workers, said Reid Maki, director of child labor advocacy for the National Consumers League and coordinator of the Child Labor Coalition.
"At a time when they were saying there are labor shortages, they were finding kids that would do the work," Maki said. "I think they felt that if they could get kids, they would take them."
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Watch the video below that talks about the Biden administration legalizing child labor to address the labor shortage.
This video is from the TIME WE HAVE LEFT channel on Brighteon.com.